A Charleston, South Carolina judge allowed family members of the 9 AME church shooting victims to speak to gunman Dylann Roof in court this morning. Roof, 21, is charged with 9 counts of felony murder and 1 count of weapons possession in the shooting deaths of 9 members of historically black Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday.
Roof was captured the next morning when a sharp eyed resident spotted his car in Shelby, N.C., about 3.5 hours north of Charleston, S.C.
The 9th grade dropout waived extradition and was flown back to Charleston Thursday evening. He attended his bond hearing via video hookup from the jail behind the courthouse as Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr. presided.
“it’s important to hear from the victims and let them speak out,” said Judge Gosnell.
The judge allowed distraught family members to address Roof. Some of the family members declined to speak. Loud sobbing could be heard in the courtroom as Esther Lance, the daughter of Ethel Lance, spoke directly to Roof.
“I just want everybody to know… to you… I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you… and have mercy on your soul.
“You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you,” she said as Roof showed no emotion.
Lance, 70, (pictured top) worked as a custodian at the church for 30 years. Six females and three males were killed during the massacre. 3 survivors, including a 5-year-old girl, played dead and were not shot.
One survivor described her harrowing experience to The NY Times. She said Roof entered the room where the Bible study was being held. She said he sat quietly next to church Pastor Clementa Pinckney.
About a half hour later, Roof became argumentative with church members over bible scriptures.
At some point Roof stood up, produced a handgun and aimed it at the head of Suzie Sanders, 87, pictured above right. Her nephew Tywanza Sanders, who was described as the peacekeeper of his family, begged Roof, “You don’t have to do this.”
Roof reportedly replied, “I have to do it! You are raping our women and taking over the country.”
Tywanza dived in front of his aunt. He was the first to be killed. Witnesses say Roof reloaded his weapon 5 times during the carnage.
The judge denied bail on the felony murder counts. He set bail at $1 million for the weapons possession count.
Roof’s next court hearing is set for October 23.